Microsoft Now Plans To Offer Free Security Updates to Election Officials Using Windows 7

Microsoft Now Plans To Offer Free Security Updates to Election Officials Using Windows 7

The company originally planned to phase out security patches for Windows 7 in January. Now, Microsoft will continue issuing free updates for election systems around the world.

Earlier this summer, cybersecurity experts were on edge about the operating systems used by the majority of election jurisdictions across the country. Most officials are using Windows 7 or older operating systems to program their machines and count ballots, and Microsoft said it would no longer be offering security updates after 2019 unless customers paid a fee.

Now, the company has announced it will offer election officials free security support for the Windows 7 system through the 2020 election cycle, CyberScoop reported. Many states had invested in new voting machines with heightened security protections ahead of the presidential election, but several of those machines still run on the older OS.

“We want to make sure that Windows 7 end-of-life doesn’t…become a barrier to having a secure and safe election,” Jan Neutze, the head of Microsoft’s cybersecurity and democracy team, said at a conference hosted by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. “It’s the right thing to do.”

While The Associated Press reported in July that the “vast majority of 10,000 election jurisdictions nationwide use Windows 7 or an older operating system,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post on Friday that a “relatively small but still significant number of certified voting machines in operation” run on Windows 7.

Tom Burt, the corporate vice president of customer security and trust, wrote that the company was making the “unusual exception” in providing updates because of many factors, including the limited amount of time that officials have to change over to new systems.

“We also know that transitioning to machines running newer operating systems in time for the 2020 election may not be possible for a number of reasons, including the lengthy voting machine certification process – a process we are working with government officials to update and make more agile,” Burt wrote.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission also said last week that it will not decertify machines running on Windows 7 or older operating systems. Burt said that Microsoft is “working with major manufacturers that have sold voting machines running Windows 7 to ensure any security updates provided to these systems are successful.”

Other countries stand to benefit from Microsoft’s announcement as well. Burt said that the election security updates will be available to all democratic countries holding national elections in 2020.

  • Ahead of Current Events Ahead of Current Events

    In this episode, Ralph C. Jensen chats with Dana Barnes, president of global government at Dataminr. We talk about the evolution of Dataminr and how data software benefits business and personnel alike. Dataminr delivers the earliest warnings on high impact events and critical information far in advance of other sources, enabling faster response, more effective risk mitigation for both public and private sector organizations. Barnes recites Dataminr history and how their platform works. With so much emphasis on cybersecurity, Barnes goes into detail about his cybersecurity background and the measures Dataminr takes to ensure safe and secure implementation.

Digital Edition

  • Security Today Magazine - November December 2022

    November / December 2022

    Featuring:

    • Key Tech Trend
    • Is Your Access Control System Cyber Secure?
    • Constantly Evolving
    • The Talent Shortage
    • Looking Forward to 2023

    View This Issue

  • Environmental Protection
  • Occupational Health & Safety
  • Spaces4Learning
  • Campus Security & Life Safety